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Let's face it: L.A. could use some magic, and not the bunnies-in-the-hat kind, either. With the city facing massive layoffs, mismanaged budgets and other assorted nightmares, we need more than parlor tricks. Maybe we're just looking for something a bit more spiritual.
In other words, it's the season of the witch.
Maja D'Aoust is the self-proclaimed White Witch of L.A. "People say, 'Oh, you're a witch?' And no one knows what that word means," D'Aoust says. "Really, that word means 'wise one,' and is just someone who has a relationship with divinity."
Raised by a hippie mom who studied Tibetan Thangka painting, Maja Dakini D'Aoust lives up to her name. "Dakinis are affiliated with witches," she says. "They're the guardians of the sacred texts, and are the ones who help the yogis get to enlightenment."
Like the Dakinis, D'Aoust is the custodian of rare texts, and in a sense, she helps us yogis — otherwise known as Angelenos — find our own way to enlightenment.
D'Aoust works as a librarian at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz, a nonprofit learning center founded in 1934 by Manly Palmer Hall, a writer and lecturer on mysticism, magic and ancient teachings. "He was all about bringing things together and not being exclusive," she says. "I'm very much like that as well. I try to look at everything, and find the underlying unifiers in all the different philosophies."
In addition to being a librarian and a mother of two, D'Aoust hosts Expanding Mind With Eric Davis, a weekly radio program on ProgressiveRadio.com. She also leads a series of bus tours on L.A.'s spiritual legacy with Esotouric, and delivers monthly lectures at the Annie Besant Lodge in Beachwood Canyon, covering topics such as synchronicity, incantations, kabbalah and witchcraft.
"It's just looking into the deeper implications of magic," D'Aoust says. "How we can use influence to manipulate people, for good or bad, all the time, as human beings. It's kind of part of our deal."
She's also co-written The Secret Source with Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey, a rebuttal to the self-help sensation The Secret. D'Aoust feels that The Secret isn't really much of one, after all. Instead, she sees the mega–best seller's message as something "that has been otherwise available throughout the centuries in hundreds of books."
As an undergraduate, D'Aoust studied biochemistry but found herself just as interested in the process of discovery as in the discoveries themselves. "I was always, like, What were these people thinking? How did they reach these conclusions? Over and over again, I found connections to alchemy, to mysticism, to ecstatic states."
Eventually, D'Aoust earned a master's degree in transformational psychology from the University of Philosophical Research, but she attributes her understanding of human consciousness to her scientific background. "You see perfect examples of how we act in a community happen inside your body. When one cell says, 'Forget it, I'm going to do my own thing,' then [there is a] cancer."
In the end, D'Aoust's mission is to make everyone aware of their own spiritual potential, whether or not they believe it's there. "People get this idea that you have to be some kind of altruistic saint in order to be holy," she says. "But in fact, the holiest people are kind of the grittiest ones who can accept their shadow, and integrate that into their lives."